By most players’ accounts, The Taken King expansion for Destiny and the updates to the main game are a success. The game at launch was criticized for its core loot cycle and level progression being obtuse, unfair, and just too grindy. With the 2.0 revamp, Bungie took a hard look at all the systems and addressed many of the complaints people had. In short, a loot-based action game launched with a screwy drop system and level progression that was unsatisfying, but the developers ditched core mechanics that proved troublesome and made the game better. If that story sounds familiar, it’s because it is.
Kotaku reports that in December of last year, members of the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls team met with Bungie to discuss what they had learned after Blizzard launched their loot-driven game. Namely, that people wanted the illusion of random chance, but that rewards needed to be skewed in favor of the players.
People who were at the presentation say it was extraordinarily helpful for Bungie’s team. One source called it “invaluable.” Others said it drove some of the decisions they made for The Taken King. In previous interviews with Kotaku and other sites, director Luke Smith has talked openly about avoiding randomness and designing quests with guaranteed rewards, an approach that has served Destiny well throughout year two so far. Destiny’s meta-narrative has followed the same path as Diablo III’s: It had a rocky launch, then the developers found redemption.
The turnaround on Destiny was successful enough that Bungie was able to approach Activision with the idea that future content could be supported through in-game purchases of optional content like emotes and cosmetic skins.
“There was a bet that was, ‘Hey if we did microtransactions, I bet you we could generate enough revenue to make up for the loss of DLCs,'” said a source. “Instead of it going Destiny, DLC1, DLC2, Comet, DLC1, DLC2, they’re actually just gonna go [big] release and then incremental release. So it’ll just be Destiny, Comet, Destiny, Comet every year. It’s basically just switching the game to an annual model.”
A little loot distribution from Diablo III and a page taken from buy-to-play MMOs gets you the current strategy for Destiny.